FoundationMeet The Team

  • Board of Directors

    Our Board of Directors brings the rigor and efficiency of the leadership into the vitiligo world.

    Our Directors are well-respected individuals with a diverse range of views, experience and knowledge. They are responsible for governing the VRF, establishing policy, setting priorities, and making final grant decisions. All Directors are unpaid volunteers serving staggered five-year terms, for a maximum of ten years.

    • Mr. Dmitry AksenovMSc, MBAFounder
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      Mr. Dmitry Aksenov

      MSc, MBA

      Dmitry Aksenov founded the Vitiligo Research Foundation in 2010, as a means of organizing and coordinating vitiligo research across the world. A self-made man, successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dmitry is often said to have revolutionized the Russian real estate development market. He graduated with the highest distinction and earned his MSc in physics in 1989. In the early 2000s, Dmitry introduced the first energy-efficient and affordable houses to the Russian market, and created thousands of jobs in the Moscow region. He actively promotes a cultural dialogue between East and West through the Vienna Art Fair, which he acquired in 2012 and has since turned it into an annual, must-see contemporary art event.

      As the father of a child with vitiligo, he began his involvement in combating the disease by consulting with leading dermatologists and identifying recent breakthroughs in medical research that could cure his daughter. When he discovered that very little funding went towards new work in vitiligo, he spent two years identifying and recruiting the most visionary scientists in the field to work together.

      Unwilling to accept the limited treatment options available to vitiligo patients, Dmitry established the Vitiligo Research Foundation. He teamed up with leading experts from academia and the biopharma industry to accelerate the basic science and create connections between academic scientists and those who commercially develop drugs. Since its inception, the VRF has become one of the leading supporters of vitiligo research and treatment in the world. Dmitry is now dedicated to the mission of the VR Foundation in preventing other families having to endure a similar battle with this distressing skin disease.

    • Prof. Torello LottiMDChair of the Board, co-founder
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      Prof. Torello Lotti

      MD

      Professor Lotti is VR Foundation's co-founder and our top scientific advisor. He is a world-renowned vitiligo expert, a keynote lecturer at major dermatology meetings, visiting professor at several universities in his homeland of Italy and abroad, chairman and director of dermatology societies, and co-author of the book ‘Vitiligo: Problems and Solutions’. He was Full Professor of the Dermatology and Venereology Division at University of Florence School of Medicine in Italy from 2006 to 2010 and is now Full Professor and Chair of Dermatology and Venereology at the Gugliemo Marconi University in Rome. His principal scientific investigations are focused on the study of neuropeptides in numerous skin diseases, of plasminogen activators in autoimmune dermatoses and in lichen planus, and the clinical aspects and treatment of psoriasis vulgaris - with particular emphasis on new therapies with biological agents. Of particular relevance is his research on the pathogenesis and innovative treatments for vitiligo. Professor Lotti is also an Honorary Professor of Dermatology at the China Medical University, Shenyang and a New York Academy of Sciences Howard Fox Awardee & Lecturer.

    • Prof. Jana HercogovaMD
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      Prof. Jana Hercogova

      MD

      Prof. Jana Hercogova is the past-President of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. Her positions include Chairwoman at the Department of Dermatology, Charles University Prague since 1995 and also Scientific Board Member of the 2nd Medical Faculty, since 1999, Secretary General of the Czech Academy of Dermatology and Venereology since 2012, Board Member of the European Society for Cosmetic and Aesthetic Dermatology since 2000, Professor of Dermatology, Venereology, Cell Biology and Psychocutaneous Medicine at the International Faculty of the 'Centro Interuniversitario di Dermatologia Biologica e Psicosomatica', Italy since 2001, Visiting Professor University of Siena, Italy since 2003, Honorary Professor at the No 1 Hospital in Shenyang, China since 2011.

    • Prof. Mark LebwohlMD
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      Prof. Mark Lebwohl

      MD

      Past-president of the American Academy of Dermatology, Prof. Lebwohl leads one of the most renowned dermatology programs in the nation. Under his direction, extraordinary recruits in medical dermatology have developed safer, more effective therapies in skin cancer, psoriasis, vitiligo, eczema, and many other dermatologic diseases. He is professor and chairman of the department of dermatology at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Lebwohl is president of the New York State Society of Dermatology and has served as president of the Manhattan Dermatologic Society and chairman of the Dermatology Section of the New York Academy of Medicine. He is also a member of the Medical Board of the National Psoriasis Foundation. Mark Lebwohl has chaired numerous symposia and has written or edited several books, including the leading book on dermatologic therapy, - Treatment of Skin Disease. He has authored or co-authored over 500 publications including articles, chapters and abstracts. Prof. Lebwohl is actively involved in clinical trials of many new dermatologic treatments.

    • Prof. Robert SchwartzMD
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      Prof. Robert Schwartz

      MD

      One of the America's foremost dermatologists, Robert Schwartz is Professor and Head of Dermatology at New Jersey Medical School. He is also Professor of Medicine, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the New Jersey Medical School. Professor Schwartz has been elected a Member Honoris Causa of fifteen National Dermatologic Societies in Europe. He has lectured widely, including eighteen consecutive years on the faculty of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, as a featured speaker dozens of dermatological congresses. He is a past President of the Dermatology Section of the New York Academy of Medicine, and in 2009 began a five-year term on the Board of Directors of the International Society of Dermatology. He served as Chair of the VRF Scientific Advisory Board from May 2010 through December 2014.

  • Scientific Advisory Board

    Our Scientific Advisory Board is comprised of leading vitiligo researchers and practitioners, as well as experts in related fields, including genetics, immunology and drug development.

    The Board help us to develop our research agenda, evaluate grant applications, review progress reports, and articulate and communicate our vision and findings to the global scientific community.

    • Prof. Andrew AlexisMDChair of Scientific Advisory Board
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      Prof. Andrew Alexis

      MD

      One Dr. Alexis is the Director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. After receiving his medical degree and Master’s of Public Health from Columbia University, he completed his dermatology residency at Weill Cornell Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in dermatopharmacology at New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Alexis is a recognized authority in medical and cosmetic dermatology in patients with skin of color. He has been an investigator in numerous clinical studies, has widely published in the peer-reviewed literature, and is a frequent lecturer at national and international dermatology meetings. Dr. Alexis currently serves as Chair of the American Academy of Dermatology Diversity Task Force and Treasurer/Secretary of the Skin of Color Society. He is also Past President of the New York Academy of Medicine Section on Dermatology and has served as Treasurer of the Dermatologic Society of Greater New York. Dr. Alexis has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX television news programs and has been quoted in numerous leading publications, including the New York Times, Forbes, and Allure.

    • Prof. Hong-Duo ChenMD
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      Prof. Hong-Duo Chen

      MD

      Professor Chen is one of China's most eminent and respected dermatologists and medical researchers. He currently holds the positions of professor of Dermatology and Honorary President of the No.1 Hospital at China Medical University in Shenyang, China. He is also Director of the Immunodermatological Key Laboratory at the Ministry of Health in China, Director of the Photomedicine Center at China Medical University and also hold the positions of Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Dermatology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College; Adjunct Professor, Medical College of Xiamen University; and Adjunct Professor, Zhejiang University School of Medicine. Professor Chen has been a member of Board of Directors of the International Society of Dermatology since 2009, after having been the President from 2004-2009. Since 2006 he has been associate editor for the International Journal of Biomedical Science and associate editor for the Journal of Applied Cosmetology since 2004.

    • Prof. Paulo CunhaMD, PhD
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      Prof. Paulo Cunha

      MD, PhD

      Professor Cunha was Director of the Jundiai Medical School in Sao Paulo, Brazil (1996-2000). He is a Member and has been First Secretary of the Brazilian Society of Dermatology (2002), its Director of Library (2005-2006) and Member of the Commission's Specialists (1998-2005); and is a member of the Cooperative Group for Fogo Selvagem Research in Brazil and the United States. He has also been Medical Coordinator of the Brazilian Society of Dermatology Journal (2006-2012) and Secretary of the Brazilian Society of Dermatology board (2013-2014. His participation on international boards has included Director of International Society of Dermatology, member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Dermatology, member of the Assembly Meeting of Delegates of ILDS in Seoul – 2011, Executive Advisory & Liaison Board of 1st International Winter Consensus Conference. He has specialized in researching tropical diseases, endemic phempigus foliaceus and leishmaniasis and has made outstanding contributions to the understanding of this disease in Brazil.

    • Prof. Xing-Hua GaoMD
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      Prof. Xing-Hua Gao

      MD

      Professor Gao specializes in the immunopathology and immunobiology of skin diseases. His research is especially focused on atopic dermatitis, vitiligo and human papillomavirus infections of the skin. Since 2002 he has been serving as a Professor of Dermatology at China Medical University and since 2007 as a Professor and Chairman of the Dermatology Department at the No. 1 Hospital of China Medical University. He is a Member of many domestic and international committees and societies and serves as an editor of several journals.

    • Prof. Andy GorenMD
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      Prof. Andy Goren

      MD

      Professor Goren has over 20 years of experience in the development and commercialization of breakthrough technologies in the medical and biotechnology fields. He serves as a contract Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Universita' degli Studi di Roma 'G.Marconi' and is currently engaged in the development of dermatology therapies based on genetically modified organisms. He has recently completed the development of a topical band-pass filter drug for vitiligo, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. He was the inventor of the first commercial genetic test for predicting androgenetic alopecia as well as the developer of a myriad of molecular diagnostic tests in dermatology for predicting therapy response. Professor Goren studied mathematics and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley and research work at Stanford University.

    • Dr. John HarrisMD
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      Dr. John Harris

      MD

      Dr. Harris is an Assistant Professor in the Dermatology division of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He has also worked in the Department of Immunology and Virology, the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program and the MD/PhD Program at the UMMS Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Harris has also been a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in dermatology, immunology and autoimmune diseases and the physiopathology of vitiligo.

    • Dr. Aliya KassymkhanovaMD
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      Dr. Aliya Kassymkhanova

      MD

      Dr. Kassymkhanova heads the Physiotherapy Department of the Regional Dermatovenereology Center of South Kazakhstan. She has been actively involved in vitiligo research since 2004. Dr. Kassymkhanova published over 20 papers and received two patents for vitiligo treatments. A tireless patient advocate, Aliya chairs the Vitiligo School - a local patient education and support group she founded in 2005.

    • Prof. Konstantin LomonosovMD
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      Prof. Konstantin Lomonosov

      MD

      Professor Lomonosov graduated from the Medical Faculty of the Moscow Order of Lenin State Medical Institute in 1988. Following his graduation he continued his medical and research activities at the Department of Skin and Venereal Diseases in the Moscow Medical Academy. In 2000 he completed his doctorate in two specialty fields 'Allergy and Immunology' and 'Skin and Venereal diseases'. Professor Lomonosov is currently a consultant to the Medical Center of the Russian Presidential Administration, the scientific director of the venereal branch of the skin diseases clinic at the Moscow Medical Academy and a member of specialized dissertation councils. In addition to ongoing treatment activities, he is actively engaged in teaching, in therapeutic counseling and research activities.

    • Prof. Lali MekokishviliMD
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      Prof. Lali Mekokishvili

      MD

      Professor Mekokishvili is a dermato-venereologist and infectivologist and a full Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the Tbilisi Medical Academy in Georgia. She is also the President and founder of the Georgian Association of Photodermatology and Skin Cancer, a board member of various Georgian and international scientific and professional associations, and a specialist member of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. Professor Mekokishvili is a national representative of the 'Euromelanoma' campaign in Georgia and a member of the editorial boards of numerous international scientific magazines.

    • Prof. Silvia MorettiMD
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      Prof. Silvia Moretti

      MD

      Professor Silvia Moretti is Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Florence, Faculty of Medicine, Italy, where she is also Dermatology Residency Program Director, Cooordinator of the Master of Tricological Sciences, Professor in Dermatology Residency Program, and Professor in the School of Medicine and Surgery, and the Applied Clinical Nursing. Professor Moretti's research has largely focused on skin diseases such as skin cancer (particularly lymphoma and melanoma), immune-mediated skin diseases and pigmentation disorders (in particular vitiligo). Using immuno-histochemical and ultrastructural methods integrated with cellular and molecular biology and cell culture, she has focused on translational studies designed to identify the stages of tumor progression and to clarify the causes of the pathogenesis of skin diseases. She has participated in international multi-centre studies on skin diseases within this field.

    • Dr. Davinder ParsadMD
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      Dr. Davinder Parsad

      MD

      Dr. Parsad is currently working as Adjunct Professor at the Department of Dermatology of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India. His main area of research and expertise is the pathogenesis and treatment of vitiligo. Dr. Parsad is the President of the Asian Society for Pigment Cell Research, Coordinator of the Asian region for the World Vitiligo consensus group and a Council Member of International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies. He is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the founding director of the Vitiligo Academy of India and a member of the Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists. In addition he has received many international awards and fellowships.

    • Prof. Mirna SitumMD
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      Prof. Mirna Situm

      MD

      Professor Šitum is Head of the Department of Dermatovenereology at the Sestre Milosrdnice University Hospital Centre, Head of the Referral Center for Melanoma and Referral Center for Chronic Wounds for the Health Ministry of the Republic of Croatia, President of the Croatian Dermatovenereological Society section of the Croatian Medical Association and a chief researcher officer of the Ministry of Science of the Republic of Croatia. She is a leading researcher in various fields of dermatology and, as a consultant researcher she is cooperating in ten science research projects, some with international reach, mostly in oncology.

    • Prof. Richard SpritzMD
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      Prof. Richard Spritz

      MD

      Professor Spritz is a world-renowned researcher at the Human Medical Genetics and Genomics Program, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora. His laboratory looks at the mapping, discovery and function of disease genes affecting skin, autoimmunity, and craniofacial development, with particular focus on the molecular basis of human genetic diseases, including mutational and functional analysis of human disease genes. Over the past 25 years, his laboratory has characterized many different disorders of pigmentation, including albinism, piebaldism, and particularly vitiligo, as well as related autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and others, finding that these different autoimmune diseases share common underlying susceptibility genes. Most recently, Professor Spritz organized and carried out several international genome-wide association studies, involving thousands of vitiligo patients, thereby identifying at least 32 different genes that are involved with susceptibility to vitiligo.

    • Prof. Andrija StanimirovicMD
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      Prof. Andrija Stanimirovic

      MD

      Professor Stanimirovic serves as a full time Professor of Dermatology & Venereology at the University of Applied Health Sciences in Zagreb, Croatia, as a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Maribor, Slovenia, and also serves as a Consultant Dermatologist at his own private office in Zagreb, among many consulting positions. Professor Stanimirovic is the President of the Croatian Vitiligo Association, Vice-President of the Croatian Psoriasis Association and Board Member of the Croatian Dermatovenerological Society and Croatian Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases. He is also a member of EADV, AAD, Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology (JSID) and the scientific board member of the Research Institute of the Dead Sea (RIDS).

    • Prof. Robert SchwartzMD, PhD
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      Prof. Robert Schwartz

      MD, PhD

      One of the America's foremost dermatologists, Robert Schwartz is Professor and Head of Dermatology at New Jersey Medical School. He is also Professor of Medicine, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the New Jersey Medical School. Professor Schwartz has been elected a Member Honoris Causa of fifteen National Dermatologic Societies in Europe. He has lectured widely, including eighteen consecutive years on the faculty of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, as a featured speaker dozens of dermatological congresses. He is a past President of the Dermatology Section of the New York Academy of Medicine, and in 2009 began a five-year term on the Board of Directors of the International Society of Dermatology. He served as Chair of the VRF Scientific Advisory Board from May 2010 through December 2014.

    • Prof. Michael TharpMD
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      Prof. Michael Tharp

      MD

      Professor Tharp has been an integral part of the RUSH University Medical Center since 1995 and is presently senior attending physician, chairman and program director, and chief editor of the Dermatologic Therapy journal in the Department of Dermatology. He has been certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine since 1977 and the American Board of Dermatology since 1980. His areas of expertise include atopic dermatitis, urticaria, mastocytosis, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, psoriasis, blistering diseases and pediatric dermatology. His Academic Office is at the Department of Dermatology in the RUSH University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois. He is an invited lecturer at numerous international events in the field of dermatology, including the American Academy of Dermatology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Central Society for Investigative Dermatology and the World Congress of Dermatology.

    • Prof. Nino TsiskarishviliMD
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      Prof. Nino Tsiskarishvili

      MD

      Professor Tsiskarishvili is a Founder and President of the Vitiligo Association of Georgia. A Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Tbilisi State Medical University in 1977, and Associated Professor of her Alma Mater since 2003, she has been actively involved in dermatological research and teaching and has published over 120 papers and two monographs. She is a member of the Editorial Board of 'South Caucasian Dermatology and Venerology News' and several other journals, an active member of the Georgian Association of Dermatovenerologists and EADV. Clinical work of Profsessor Tsiskarishvili is focused on pigmentary disorders and vitiligo.

  • Management Team

    Our management team are qualified individuals with a diverse set of skills who are working for a common cause – to find a cure for vitiligo and make a difference in the lives of vitiligo patients.

    • Yan ValleMSc, MBAChief Executive Officer, University of Guglielmo Marconi
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      Yan Valle

      MSc, MBA

      Yan Valle was diagnosed with vitiligo in his early childhood. After receiving a MSc degree in Electroengineering, Yan received certification in computer engineering and later a degree in business administration. For over 15 years he enjoyed a successful business career consulting for multinational corporations, venture funds and private clients in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe and South America. For four years prior to establishment of the VR Foundation in the US, he was a Director of Business Development at a leading technology company in Toronto. Since 2010, Yan has been committed full-time to combating vitiligo and improving quality of life for those affected by this neglected disease.

      Today, Yan is proactively developing a new, interdisciplinary research model, and leading our bio-IT platform development in addition to his daily CEO duties. Through his proactive approach, Yan is demonstrating a different way of managing this disease-specific, non-profit foundation, with a stronger drive to value. Connect with Yan on LinkedIn

    • Alina DickeyGeneral Manager, Volunteer
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      Alina Dickey

      Alina oversees general operations at our New York HQ. She received a J.D. from Moscow State University and additional training in management at Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theater Institute. Following a distinguished career in law, Alina has worked with an array of charities, government organizations and NGOs around the globe, as well as founding and managing the highly-acclaimed NoBorders Art Gallery in Hong Kong for four years. Most recently, Alina carried out project and management work for a high-end men's fashion label in New York. Through friends, she became acutely aware of the detrimental impact of vitiligo and is now committed to raising awareness and working to fund initiatives seeking a cure for this disease. She joined our team in 2014.

    • Philippe DelesalleIT Manager
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      Philippe Delesalle

      Phil is responsible for design and implementation of our online projects, aligning product development with present and future market trends. Phil’s professional career has taken in everything from marketing to IT and he has more than a decade of experience in designing and programming scalable networking and analytic solutions. He is a developer of cloud-based services, mobile apps, and most recently, smart city solutions and is well-versed in running a dispersed IT technology business involving virtual teams and collaboration groups.

    • Sandra ReeseSocial Media Manager, Volunteer
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      Sandra Reese

      Sandra for the past four years has helped to maintain our Twitter and Instagram accounts, working tirelessly to advance knowledge and raise awareness for vitiligo. Sandra majored in Communications at the State University of New York College at Cortland.

FAQOther Questions

  • Who is prone to vitiligo?

    Scientists know that some people are genetically predisposed to a specific group of autoimmune diseases – including generalized vitiligo – but do not know who and why.It doesn’t...

  • Is vitiligo contagious?

    Vitiligo is NOT contagious. It cannot be passed on or caught from touching someone with vitiligo, shaking hands, swimming in the same pool, sharing towels, sitting next to someo...

  • Are there any famous people with vitiligo?

    Many celebrities have dealt with vitiligo while remaining in the public eye, maintaining a positive outlook, and having a successful career. Here are a few courageous famous peo...